I am ridiculous when it comes to writing. Writing is incredibly therapeutic for me; it's a moment I feel God do something in me and through me that is unexplainable, but I seem to avoid it as long as I can. It's like I'm birthing something...I know something good will come out, but the 4-24 hours of pain in the midst of it is scary, overwhelming, and since I'm not actually birthing something, it's completely avoidable.
But, I'm walking into the valley of writing, knowing God wants me to, so trusting He's with me...here we go.
1. He's not describable. I mean really, he's not describable. He's goodness, light, fun, love, hope, and complete unimaginable adventure rolled up into one and whatever you are thinking that looks like, multiply that by 100, and you now have Bob.
He's the guy who tries witch doctors in Uganda...I mean hundreds of witch doctors, but then calls meetings with them in some hut in the middle of Africa to wash their feet and be Jesus to them, while also answering his cell for anyone and everyone, including the guy in prison who thinks he's calling Latifa. But, Bob answers, all 5 times, conference calls his mom since Latifa won't talk to prison dude, and then Bob himself helps the guy since no one in his family will answer his calls anymore.
And then, he's the guy, who as I walk up to him and immediately ask him to sign a couple books for me, pauses, looks me fiercely in the eyes, and says, "Hi, I'm Bob. What's your name?" and gives me a huge hug.
He's the guy who leaves a bowl of money in the entryway of the conference and tells us, if you need some money, take some. If you have some to share, put it in there.
He's the one who tells the woman with the dream of going to Africa and working with children, to go with him...he has a school, full of children who need a woman like her. And then to follow his example, someone offers to pay for her storage unit for a year, and another says he'll pay for her plane ticket.
He's the guy who says we're family, that we all now have a lawyer...him, and that love does stuff and it's messy and hard and exhausting but that we have eternity to rest, so let's do stuff!
And, the second reason I won't try to tell you or convince you is you wouldn't believe the stories anyways, so...
To say this was a unique conference would be an understatement. To say I was challenged by it would also be an understatement.
But, to say I was encouraged by this conference wouldn't even be in the ballpark of correct. This conference spoke into you. You know the kind of people you walk away from who just told you you COULD do it. You ARE the person. You might be where you are right now, but let's get on the road to where you want to be, and I AM HERE TO HELP GET YOU THERE.
This conference was that...the one with people speaking into your life, your heart, the places that hold your dreams, your hurts, your hopes, your deepest insecurities.
Bob is the guy who tells you, you can, and LET'S DO!
It makes me think of David and Goliath or Joshua headed into the promised land.
There were the millions of "believers" standing, sitting, talking smack, sharing opinions, saying what is and what now....
but then, there was David walking across the valley
headed straight for the giant
and the jaws of all those watching, dropped.
David was armed with what he had, what God had given him, the skills he possessed, his youth, his faith.
David took what he had and hitched it to God and they walked, together, to defeat a giant.
And everyone else just sat and watched.
Joshua stood at the Jordan with millions of whiney children of God, scared, doubting, high maintenance, dead weight
yet He hitched his warrior courage to God and they walked, together, to conquer, to take the promises of God.
Bob, one of the most humble men you will meet, has hitched all he has to God, and they have walked to places I don't even open my brain up to, and they have shown the world that love does stuff;
it goes to the depths and rescues.
it heads to the pit of evil, grasps the tips of fingers that are the only remnants of life left, and by the Mighty hand of God, grabs hold and brings them back.
it experiences the promises of God, the Might of God
Bob calls himself a porter. He views his purpose to be one that greets people, I mean really greets them...even the ones who just walk up with tunnel vision, not wanting to be groupieish or uncool and just asks for his signature on a book...ya, those, he stops them. Introduces himself, and asks her name, and then wraps her up and hugs her...in a way she didn't even know she needed.
And then, being a porter, he follows it up with, "now what can I do for you, to help you along your way?"
He says, "Where are you going and how can I help get you there?"
He says, "Let's walk together."
As a teacher, as someone who works with kids day in and day out, looking at faces that will travel this world doing who knows what, these moments listening to all the speakers at the conference were huge to me.
It helped me articulate what my desire is as a teacher, it helped me focus what my desire should be and what kind of person and teacher I WANT to be...I am a porter, and I want to be a porter on steroids for these kids.
Two months ago when I first saw the tweet about his conference, I knew I wanted to go. I'd like to say it's because I'm all about being a Love Does kind of gal...but that would be lie.
You see, over these last 4.5 years of single-dom and finding myself and trying to navigate who I am and where I'm going and how do I do life not really knowing what I want, or what I want isn't something you just go out and make happen kind of stuff, I've tried to stay on track by going and doing things where people so far above my pay grade go.
Trying to do this road of divorce, single mom hood, grieving losing my mom and best friend, reconstructing hopes, dreams, purpose, direction while letting go of lies, jacked up fallacies of money, love, friendship, transparency, self-righteousness, my identity, and faith...
I've tried to choose some healthy ways to find adventure, to frankly, escape my day to day...even though 98% of my day to day is pretty rockin', that 2% seems to get pretty heavy at times.
That 2% would be loneliness.
So, I drown my loneliness in adventure. ;)
I completed 10 half marathons...not really for athleticism, we've all seen me, I'm not the one anyone is going to put on any half-marathon poster, I did it to give "cred" to my travels, to get away, to go find God, away from my box, away from my head.
See, when I travel, it takes me out of my comfort zone. Even though I LOVE to travel, I actually have to take medicine to get on a plane. Planes still cause me anxiety. So, just to get off the launching pad, I have to go to a personal place of being "stripped" down to my most vulnerable state, to the point that I'm praying God helps me not to cause a complete scene at 30,000 feet where I'm screaming, running up and down the aisle, begging the pilot to land in that field in the middle of Nebraska.
So far that's not happened, I just whimper on the person next to me, asking them to hold me and sing, "Jesus Loves Me" over and over in my ear. :)
Thankfully, once my medicine kicks in, I am relaxed, sleepy, and able to make it to the other shore...while drooling on the person next to me.
I land, I get some fun rental car, side bar: this time, I hit jackpot. He offered me their new mercedes for a VERY NOMINAL fee. And as I was tempted to take it since this would be ultimate victory in my pursuits of getting the best car for absolutely dirt cheap costs, I did decline it. I told him, even though that did sound awesome and he was so generous to be that kind, I'm not a mercedes kind of gal. Now, was there a Ferrari by chance? ;)
No, I asked him if there was anything super fun yet a step down from Mercedes? He did, and I loved it.
I've got this rental car thing DOWN! I tell ya...it's my thing. We all need a thing, and getting a fun rental for DIRT cheap is my thing. It won't kill any giants, but it'll get you to the valley in something fast, with a great sound system. ;)
So after I land in Seattle, drooling...
I hop in a car, alone.
I drive in an unfamiliar city, alone.
I check into my hotel, alone.
I walk into a conference with over a thousand people, alone.
And I do all of that because I want to experience God. I know I'm in need of meeting Him, I know my life has gotten too crowded, too busy, too easy for me to ignore Him, so I go to the valley, to meet giants I know I'm running from, and I'm hoping He's going to meet me there.
I'm hoping He's walking with me there...or at least riding in my really cool car jamming to Needtobreathe on the way.
Inevitably, I meet giants along the way that I I've been pretending aren't there.
Expectations, desires, walls, heartache, insecurities, fears, shame, confusion, wonkiness inside me that I keep stuffed deep down.
When I travel, I try to choose a place to go where there are people on roads to awesome (as KP would say). I want to surround myself with people who are headed down a road I would like to be on. I don't know how or why or what part I play in it, because frankly, I'm stuck with being so self-absorbed, that I don't know how I'm going to change the world or write some great story, but I like to be around those who do...even if it makes me feel more lost or confused or like a big fat failure.
I want to be headed down their roads even if I'm just the girl passing out the water as they go by exhausted from their work.
I want to be inspired by them and encouraged that somehow, someway I might find myself moving down the path of awesome, not on their coattails, but next to them.
And let's have full disclosure here, I also go because it's a place full of men who love Jesus and are committing their lives to something other than driving a mercedes someday, and one of them might be in need of a confused blond headed woman who is there for slightly jacked up reasons and is trying to figure out this thing called life. :)
None of them seem to be in need of that yet, but there's a Christian conference every other weekend ladies, and I say the next one should be in Paris, where the taxis are mercedes, and the "souvenirs" would be killer...just sayin'.
So, traveling, alone, strips me down to places I can't control. To places that I'm so vulnerable that even my stubborn, "I can handle this and look like I know what I'm doing" personality can't cover up. My mind can't will itself to stop thinking about certain fears or doubts or hurts.
I can't hide my conversations from God,
I can't not have those hard talks with Him,
I can't hold it back.
My walls get taken down far enough that the flood of the real, the vulnerable, the hurt Shelly comes pouring out.
He has people like Dean Curry and Veronica Tutaj, Propaganda and Kid President, Joshua Dubois and Don Miller, John Cotton Richmond and Bob Goff speak into me.
They speak into those places, into those hurts and insecurities and then He has David Crowder provide this spiritual experience of God's love that makes one's heart overflow with joy and a need to raise hands and dance.
I learned a myriad of truths from this conference, but more for me, it was the reminder, that in our lives, we have to keep walking to the valley, we have to ignore the opinions, the naysayers, the lies, the witty onlookers, the voices inside out heads and walk to that valley with the resources and skills God has given us, and know, without a doubt, He's walking with us into the valley, and He's going to defeat the giants with us.
My strength, my knowledge, my understanding, just me, won't defeat that giant, but my willingness to walk with Him will allow me to witness how He uses the impossible to bring about the unimaginable.
Something Veronica Tutaj said in her incredible schpeel, pointed me to Psalm 107. I've now read it and reread it.
You need encouragement?
God is waiting for you at Psalm 107.
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary
And gathered from the lands,
From the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.
They wandered in the wilderness in a desert region;
They did not find a way to a land with life.
They were hungry and thirsty.
Their soul fainted within them.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble;
He delivered them out of their distresses.
He led them also by a straight way,
To go to a place with life.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness,
And for the wonderful things He has done for them!
For He has satisfied the thirsty soul,
And the hungry soul He has filled with what is good.
In conclusion :) did spending all of my birthday money along with doing something Dave Ramsey would NOT agree with to get me to Seattle and go to this conference solve my problems?
But, my life isn't about solving my problems. It's about getting out of my head, meeting God in the valley, and letting Him set me on that straight path to defeating the giants He has planned to use me to defeat...and sometimes that includes an adventure to the land of Starbucks and huge trees that fill my brain with more oxygen in 2 days than I get in a week in Texas.
And I walked away with much encouragement, encouragement that will stick with me forever.
These 2 days came at a moment when I felt like the wind on my back had become still, that I was
If you feel like no wind is pushing you along, and your arms are tired from rowing alone, invite Jesus in, and He'll help you row, in fact, He'll row for you...
just keep going, keep going, keep going.